SIF's mediation support is vital

Write to: The Editor, The Lawyer, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX, fax 0171 578 7249, e-mail, DX44700 Soho Square.

Opponents of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) are too quick to ignore the benefits that accrue with a compulsory fund. Take, for example, SIF's promotion of mediation, which my colleagues and I estimate has saved the profession at least #31.5m in the 100 or so cases where it has been used.

The advantages of mediation – cost savings, focus on resolution rather than victory, more creative and business-orientated solutions – are well known, yet overall take-up has been disappointing. SIF has worked hard to overcome the legal profession's reluctance to embrace new ways of working.

SIF enjoys a unique position as one of the major buyers of legal services. Not only can it exert considerable influence over how claims are settled, but it can also ensure that information on successful mediations is shared across its teams of claims handlers and panel solicitors.

Even the huge annual claims liability has exerted constant pressure on SIF claims teams to keep handling costs down. They were forced to seek innovative ways to deal with claims and were willing to listen and set up a pilot project, when the mediation concept was suggested several years ago.

It is this sort of innovative thinking that is needed if the cost of the profession's claims is to be contained over the next few years.

Andrew Paton, partner, Pinsent Curtis.